A Guide To Washing Cloth Diapers

High Efficiency (HE) Machines

PREWASH: for front loaders and horizontal axis machines, choose “speed wash,” “quick wash,” or “express wash.” You want a shorter cycle that is at least 30-45 minutes long to remove the surface soil so the main wash can be done with clean water. In the absence of a “speed” cycle, use the shortest normal cycle. Many HE top loaders need a “normal” or “cotton” cycle for the prewash because heavy soiled diapers do not agitate as easily without the tumbling action of a front loader. Always choose the highest soil and spin that you can select for the cycle, and turn off any extra rinses or prewash buttons that may come on. Generally speaking, for your prewash, we recommend adding a small amount of detergent and water softener if your water hardness calls for it. Your prewash can be just dirty diapers.

MAIN WASH: Your main wash cycle is the cycle that deep cleans the diapers, getting to all of the layers of the fabric. Before starting your main wash cycle, be sure to open up the washer, peel everything off the drum and fluff it up. Add other smaller laundry until the washer is 2/3-3/4 full of laundry for front loaders and horizontal axis machines. For HE top loading machines be sure to check the washing machine index for the optimal loading level for your specific machine. Avoid adding anything larger than a flat or a receiving blanket, as large items can wrap around the diapers and prevent agitation.

Non-HE (Standard) Machines

PREWASH: Your first wash cycle is an initial, short cycle to remove the surface soil so that the main wash can be done with clean water. You can prewash on cold, warm, or hot – it’s really up to you. If your washer has a “rinse and spin” cycle this may work for a breastfed baby and soft water. Otherwise, use a short full cycle, with at least 6 minutes of agitation, in the Heavy Duty, Cotton, Normal, or Regular section. Use a small amount of your chosen detergent (often line 1 or half a cap, depending on which detergent you’re using). If your water hardness requires it, add water softener to this cycle. Always allow the cycle to run until completely finished! Stopping it early just means you’re leaving waste in your diapers, definitely not a good way to get them clean.Keeping the concept of the introduction the same, different documents have different styles to introduce the written text.

MAIN WASH: This is the cycle that does the heavy lifting, deep cleaning through all the layers of fibers in your diapers. Choose your longest cycle with the longest, strongest agitation: Heavy Duty, Power Wash, and Super Wash are all common labels. You can use any water temp you like with synthetic detergents as long as your diapers smell, look and feel clean. If you’re not happy with the results using cold for example, give warm or hot a try! Plant based detergents always require hot water in the main wash cycle due to their chemical structure. They need the extra boost hot water provides by further opening fabric fibers. Use at least the full amount of detergent recommended for a heavily soiled load, and more if washing with a plant-based or free and clear detergent. Be sure to add any water softeners or boosters as needed.

What do I do with the poop?

If a baby is exclusively breastfed, their poop is water-soluble and can go directly into the wash. If a baby has formula or eats cereal or any solid foods, you’ll need to remove the poop before washing. You can spray, dunk, scrape, plop, or use a liner to get the poop into the toilet. All poop should go into the toilet, so we discourage rinsing into a bathtub, sink, or outside. If you rinse in any of those places, make sure you collect the dirty water in a container that then gets dumped into the toilet.

Extra Rinses

Only use the rinses already in the wash cycle. If your diapers come out of the completed wash cycle feeling slimy, take a look at your agitation (meaning your load size or “stew” is off). Be sure to choose the proper load size and ratio of water to laundry for your machine (more about that in the next section). Soft water can be particularly tricky, so in very rare circumstances you may need that extra rinse. Be sure to check our Soft Water link for more info. If you’re washing in hard water, those extra rinses could be doing far more harm than good! Our Hard Water link explains how and why untreated hard water minerals cause headaches for cloth diapering families. Suds are ok, promise! Be sure to visit our Suds & Bubbles page for more information.

Dryer or Hang Dry?

It’s entirely safe for the PUL to dry on high heat, as PUL was made to withstand high temperatures. The only caution is not to stretch elastic while it’s hot so as not to cause premature relaxation. The best way to avoid this is to let your diapers cool before stuffing them. *Please note: If your dryer malfunctions and overheats or your diapers get caught or snagged inside the dryer this can lead to burning, tearing or melting. If this occurs, please check the inside of your dryer for the cause and if necessary have it serviced to avoid a fire hazard.

Should you decide to hang dry, do so in a way that puts less stress on the elastics, as the weight of a bulky wet diaper pulling them down can also cause premature relaxation (especially if drying in the heat, i.e., in direct sunlight). Hanging by the middle or by the sides will help relieve the elastics from the full weight of the wet diaper. If your diapers feel stiff after hanging to dry, you can throw them in the dryer for 10-15 minutes to fluff them.

Dryer Sheets

Avoid the use of synthetic fabric softeners. That said, if a dryer sheet accidentally makes its way into a load of diapers, don’t be alarmed. A single exposure to synthetic fabric softener or a dryer sheet will not ruin your diapers. Test an insert to see if it will adequately absorb (if it’s artificial, just press your hand down on it and let the water run through.) If there is repelling, merely rewash the diapers with a hot wash and detergent. Natural fabric softeners are SAFE on natural fibers. Cotton, hemp, and bamboo products can all be washed with a natural fabric softener without the fear of buildup or repelling. Some familiar natural fabric softener brands are 7th Generation, Ology, and Mrs. Meyers.